Peter Krasilovsky Confirms Presence on Proposed SXSW Panels

Good news! Peter Krasilovsky (Program Director, Marketplaces, at the Kelsey Group) confirmed to me late Friday night that he would join Greg Sterling, Perry Evans and myself if one of the panels we’re supporting gets selected for the next South by SouthWest Interactive Festival in March 2009.

As I mentioned in a blog post last week, you can make a difference by voting for the two proposed panels:

1) Think Globally, Post Locally: The Emerging Power of Local Voice

2) The Local Search Solution: Context or Accuracy?

Register and vote for the two proposed panels (voting closes on August 29)!

SXSWi 2009: Local Search? What Local Search? Crickets…

South by SouthWest Interactive (SXSWi), possibly the hippest/coolest Web festival in North America (I attended the 2008 edition), just published the list of potential panels and presentations for its 2009 edition. As some of you might know, a large chunk (30%) of the programming for the festival is user-generated. People submit conference ideas (they had until July 11) and anyone can now vote on their favorite conference proposals using the panel picker. 1209 panels are listed there.

Tumbleweed

Flickr photo by Darkstream

Wondering how many were proposing to talk about local, I did a search and lo and behold, none have the keywords “local search” in their title (or description for that matter) and only 6 have the keyword “local” in their title. Only 4 could truly be considered local search-oriented. They are:

Lessons in Local Tech: Sustainable Food 2.0, Rachel Weidinger, Common Knowledge

From Global to Mobile: What’s Next in Local, Contextual Search, Don Turnbull, University of Texas at Austin

Think Globally, Post Locally: The Emerging Power of Local Voice, Chris Tolles, Topix.com

E-Commerce: Cultivating Links Between Local Farmers and Consumers, Andrew Smiley, Sustainable Food Center

What it means: either local search is not sexy enough (I doubt it!) or most of us in the industry (except for Chris Tolles @ Topix) were sleeping at the wheel when came time to submit a proposal for a panel. If local search as an industry wants to be seen as relevant and exciting, we need to be present at SXSWi. Now that I think about it, I should have reached out to my all-star local search co-panelists (Peter K., Greg
Sterling
, Perry Evans) assembled for the last Google Local Markets Symposium and maybe offer to debate the future of local search. That would have been a good panel.

Update: after writing this post, I got an e-mail from Vinicius Vacanti, founder of Yipit. It looks like his proposed panel ” The Local Search Solution: Context or Accuracy?” just appeared in the panel picker. So, there’s hope after all!  Vote for it!

Highlights from Kelsey’s Drilling Down 2008: The Kelsey Team Intro and the Latimes.com Strategy

Very interesting first half-day yesterday at the Kelsey Group’s Drilling Down on Local ’08. The theme of the conference is “Marketplaces”. It regroups products such as classifieds, auctions and vertical sites. Here are highlights from the first two sessions:

As an introduction, the Kelsey Group’s team provided us with some background information on “Marketplaces”. Neal Polachek first described the local end game as “better search, discovery, and engagement”. He even quoted the Cluetrain Manifesto’s “Markets are conversation”. He also talked about their latest global ad revenue forecast for 2007-2012, stating that the biggest category winner would be Internet and the biggest loser would be newspapers. As I wrote last week, the Kelsey group believes that Verticals will capture a large chunk of online advertising by 2012. Matt Booth then talked about three specific verticals (travel, automotive, home services) that have had a tremendous impact on offline/online business and media spending. For example, Matt showed two juxtaposed graphs showing the decline of newspapers’ automotive revenues vs. Autotrader.com’s revenue increase. Peter Krasilovsky finished the intro by stating that it’s now time to “uncouple” print and online media bundles. As print revenues decline, you need to have online-only ad products to compensate. Peter added that you also want to “verticalize” your offer to expand your revenues.

Kelsey Drilling Down 08 Neal Polachek

The second session “Remaking the Los Angeles Times (Online)” starred Rob Barrett, Senior VP of Interactive Media, GM, LATimes.com. He started by mentioning that most of what he’s currently working on is not very visible online now. He spent the first couple of years at the LA Times refocusing the online business. His main focus has been to build the display ad business (as opposed to classifieds). It’s going to generate $25M in revenues this year. Barrett says it’s now “time to finally break the newspaper paradigm online”. The LA Times’ online strategy needs to be local as opposed to national as it will allow them to differentiate their offer versus other “national” newspapers like the New York Times. They’ve realized that local users are key to online revenues as they generate more monthly page views and twice the display revenue per page views. Their product approach is “we want to own Los Angeles”, i.e. be integral to life of Angelinos, be the source of news and information about Los Angeles to the world and be an information retailer by creating, aggregating and curating LA content.

Los Angeles Times - News from Los Angeles, California and the World

The Latimes.com web site is slowly transforming itself into a hyperlocal social network. All content pieces are going to be tagged and indexed by category and geography. By targeting on demographics and on geo, the LA Times is hoping to raise their average CPMs and improve ad effectiveness. They are creating the best targeting machine for the LA DNA. Barrett then showed us pilots of various new vertical sections that are very promising:

Google Now Offering Free Trackable Phone Numbers to Advertisers

I’m at the Google Local Markets Symposium today, an invite-only local search event happening at the Googleplex. I spoke this morning on a local search industry blogger panel with my friends Greg Sterling, Perry Evans and Peter Krasilovsky.

Google Local Markets Symposium

In addition to our panel, we heard from Richard Holden, Google’s Director of Product Management, talking about the various Google products targeted to SMEs. One of the major insights (for me) that came out of his presentation was the fact Google now offers free call reporting with any US local business ad. According to Holden, advertisers can choose to replace their regular phone number with a new free “trackable” toll-free or local number. This new feature might be the results of the GrandCentral acquisition.

This is not to be confused with the click-to-call function Google recently removed from Google Maps.

What it means: Google could start assigning new permanent trackable numbers for any media the advertiser chooses to advertise in. This would give Google tons of information regarding the ROI of various local media, allowing them to become a centralized advertiser dashboard. Given that the directory business is all about calls, this is potentially very disruptive to that industry in particular. As this involves serious customer disintermediation, I would recommend local media start looking at offering this option at large as well.